There was a lot to celebrate at Calgary Academy’s Class of 2022 Graduation on May 27, 2022. After two years of drive-in graduation celebrations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 grads gathered at BMO Centre for a ‘normal’ graduation, (and, safe to say, ‘normal’ has never felt so extraordinary!) CA honoured 96 students, the largest graduating class in its 40th year as a school. To have these three momentous milestones line up this spring, said CEO Dr. Greg Bass at the grad ceremony, “I think [is] kind of poetic.”
The pandemic hit halfway through the Class of 2022’s Grade 10 year. “All they’ve known for high school is COVID,” Mike Ross, Assistant Principal, Senior School, pointed out. These students weathered online learning, losing all their extra-curricular activities, and so many more once-taken-for-granted high school experiences.
Academics, mental health, and a sense of community all took a blow. But the students persevered. And when the Class of 2022 returned to school, “They were hungry,” said Ross. “Some of the changes we’ve seen in the kids are incredible.”
The Class of 2022 is passionate. Whether it’s politics, art, athletics, drama, or people, ”They care,” said Ross.
To create connection when cohorts were strictly separated, Grade 12 students initiated a letter writing program and became pen pals with Grade 2 and Grade 3 students.
The drama students were determined to put on their first live drama performance in two years. Through the Omicron wave early in 2022, when clubs were not allowed to meet, the cast rehearsed over Zoom and Teams. In May 2022, they performed the Elvis musical, “All Shook Up” live and in person, and in front of their families and peers.
Every single Grade 12 student will graduate this spring. Nearly everyone plans to write their Diploma Exams. Ninety-three percent of the 2022 graduating class plan to go on to a post-secondary program, (the provincial average is 65 percent.)
In addition, this group of young adults has developed a wise-beyond-their-years gratitude for the quieter things. “Simple things like having a locker, being surrounded by peers and teachers, or just being in the building became special,” reflected Matt Medlicott, the 2022 Valedictorian in his commencement speech. These students have been through a lot together, and you can sense that in their bond as a class.
“I want to thank my friends and peers for rising to the occasion time and time again, finding new ways to connect and not lose sight of our collective goals.” – Valedictorian, Matthew Medlicott
Calgary Academy opened its doors to students in the fall of 1981. The school wanted to fill a need for students struggling in the public school system–to offer more personalized, student-centred learning where anyone could thrive. The school rented a few classrooms and started out with 44 students and 12 staff members. In 1987, the first graduating class of seven students donned their caps and gowns.
A lot has happened since then. But the heart of the school’s mission remains the same. Medlicott reflected on the great meaning of what Calgary Academy offered to him and his peers:
“We are all here because at some point we struggled. When I first came to the school, many of my grades were just a few percentiles of passing. At the time, I could hardly imagine achieving more than what I had, let alone becoming Valedictorian.” – Valedictorian, Matthew Medlicott
Indeed, students often find more than they expect both in the school and in themselves. Originally, Calgary Academy thought the school would be a place for students to regroup before re-entering public school. “But people wanted to stay,” said Ross. “They love the support and the relationships we can offer.”
That support never waned during the pandemic. Like the students, teachers faced unprecedented challenges and unfamiliar circumstances. They looked for unique opportunities–like inviting Mayor Nenshi to participate in a virtual science class, or teaching students how to apply Math 30-1 in the real world. “Our teachers really stepped out of the box,” said Ross.
CA can’t wait to see what this extraordinary group of humans does as they step into the world. “This class has been through the most adversity of any graduating class in a long time,” Ross said. “To see them come out the other end and become the people they are has been really impressive. If they can make it through the last few years, there’s not much that we can throw at them now that they’re not ready for.”
“We all overcame so much more than what was asked of us and I’m confident we can overcome any adversity we confront in our future.” – Valedictorian, Matthew Medlicott
Congratulations, Class of 2022!